No matter how diligent you are in your home dental care regimen, you should still get a dental exam and cleaning at least twice per year. The importance of regular dental exams cannot be overemphasized – dental exams are the cornerstone of good dental health. In particular, regular checkups are essential for early detection of more serious problems. Early detection makes treatment easier, less expensive and more successful and effective. During your dental exam, our dentist will perform the following routine checks:
- Examine and assess gum health; check for gum disease
- Diagnose any existing tooth decay
- When indicated, take and analyze x-rays, which may reveal decay, bone loss, abscesses, tumors, cysts, and other problems
- Screen for the presence of oral cancer
- Verify the stability of any existing fillings or other restorations
- Inform you of all findings and make treatment recommendations
As damaging as plaque can be, it is easily removed by mechanical brushing. Plaque deposits build up on the teeth fairly quickly after eating and drinking, and if they are not brushed away at least twice a day, they can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. It takes just one day for bacteria to build up enough to make your mouth susceptible to disease.
If plaque is not removed, it hardens and becomes calculus (tartar). Calculus cannot be removed with regular brushing.
Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organizations.
Fluoride works in two ways:
Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride containing dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and gels. Dentists generally recommend that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.
Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drop or gel form and can be prescribed by your dentist or physician. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants, and tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years. It is very important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.
Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. Your dentist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
- Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
- Exposed and sensitive root surfaces.
- Fair to poor oral hygiene habits.
- Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake.
- Inadequate exposure to fluorides.
- Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications.
- Recent history of dental decay.
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit Crystal Smiles on a regular basis.
Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth
When you brush your teeth:
- Brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and at night.
- Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and a head that is small enough to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
- You may also use an electric toothbrush that has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. Studies show that powered toothbrushes with a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action are more effective than other toothbrushes, including other powered toothbrushes.
- Place the brush at a 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Press firmly, and gently rock the brush back and forth using small circular movements. Do not scrub. Vigorous brushing can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.
- Brush all surfaces of the teeth, tongue-side and cheek-side. Pay special attention to the front teeth and all surfaces of the back teeth.
- Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short back-and-forth strokes.
- Brush your tongue from back to front. Some people put some toothpaste or mouthwash on their toothbrush when they do this. Brushing your tongue helps remove plaque, which can cause bad breath and help bacteria grow. Some toothbrushes now have a specific brush to use for your tongue.
Floss at least once a day. The type of floss you use is not important. Choose the type and flavor you like best. When you floss your teeth, use any of the following methods:
- The finger-wrap method: Cut off a piece of floss 45 cm (18 in.) to 50 cm (20 in.) long. Wrap one end around your left middle finger and the other end around your right middle finger, until your hands are about 5 cm (2 in.) to 8 cm (3 in.) apart.
- The circle method: Use a piece of floss about 30 cm (12 in.) long. Tie the ends together, forming a loop. If the loop is too large, wrap the floss around your fingers to make it smaller.
Gently work the floss between the teeth toward the gums. Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape and gently slide it under the gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the plaque.
Placing the floss in and out between the teeth without scraping will not remove much plaque and can hurt your gums.
A plastic flossing tool makes flossing easier. Child-size flossing tools are available for parents to use to floss their children’s teeth. They are available at most drugstores.
If your gums bleed when you floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter next to your teeth.
Dental sealants are a quick, easy, and relatively cheap solution for preventing cavities. They are plastic coatings that are usually placed on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth — the molars and premolars — to help protect them from decay. Although the idea behind sealants is not new, they’re quickly becoming the go-to treatment for kids who need extra help in the dental department. If you have a child and are interested in dental sealants, schedule an appointment today.
About Dental Sealants
Who needs dental sealants?
Children are notoriously bad brushers and tend to ignore the problem areas in the back of the mouth that lead to cavities and decay, making them the prime target market for sealants. (However, if adults have certain problem areas that could be cured with sealants, this could be an option for them too.) The American Dental Association recommends that kids receive dental sealants as soon as their adult teeth erupt.
Those who are more susceptible to cavities and decay – whether that is because they are genetically prone to cavities, don’t have great oral hygiene habits, or lack access to dental care – should also consider getting dental sealants as a preventative measure.
Are Dental Sealants Effective?
Dental sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of cavities in the teeth that are covered. According to Jonathan Shenkin, a spokesman for the American Dental Association, decades of research demonstrate that coating the biting surface of 6-year molars with a resin-based sealant can reduce cavities by up to nearly 80% immediately, and up to 60% for four years or more.
Are Dental Sealants safe?
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard the buzzword “BPA” quite a few times in recent years. The biggest factor in the general safety of dental sealants is Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, which is a resin used in many types of plastics. There is some evidence that BPA can be harmful to a child’s health, but it’s not conclusive. This evidence cites BPA is a hormone disruptor and one study tied prenatal exposure to BPA with hyperactivity and anxiety in babies, especially girls. In July of 2013, the FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups.
Dental sealants themselves don’t contain BPA, but many of them contain compounds that turn into BPA when they come in contact with saliva. However, professionals claim that “the amount of exposure is extremely low” and can be reduced even further. By scrubbing and rinsing sealants after they are applied, 88% to 95% of the compounds that can turn into BPA are eliminated.